Racing Mecca!

Trip Start Sep 20, 2007
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Trip End May 16, 2008


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Flag of United States  , North Carolina
Friday, November 23, 2007

Lowe's Motor Speedway! Charlotte, North Carolina. Home of the Coca-Cola 600. Charlotte's stop on the NASCAR circuit.
 
NASCAR History
 
Numerous early race drivers were involved in bootlegging. The runners would modify their cars in order to create a faster, more manoeuvrable vehicle to evade the police. The next logical step for the owners of these cars was to race them. These races were popular entertainment in the rural Southern United States, and they are most closely associated with the Wilkes County region of North Carolina. Most races in those days were of modified cars, street vehicles which were lightened and reinforced.
 
NASCAR was founded February 21, 1948 by several drivers of that time, with its points system written on a bar room napkin. The sanctioning body hosted their first event at Daytona beach. The first NASCAR "Strictly Stock" race ever was held at Charlotte Speedway (not the Charlotte Motor Speedway) on June 19, 1949. Initially the cars were known as the Strictly Stock Division and raced with virtually no modifications on the factory models. This division was renamed "Grand National" after the first season (in 1950). However, over a period of about a dozen years, modifications for both safety and performance were allowed, and by the mid-1960s the vehicles were purpose-built race cars with a stock-appearing body.
 
The first NASCAR competition held outside of the U.S. was in Canada, where on July 1, 1952, Buddy Shuman won a 200-lap race on a half-mile (800 m) dirt track in Stamford Park, Ontario, near Niagara Falls. On July 18, 1958, Richard Petty made his premiership debut in a race at Toronto at the Canadian National Exhibition Grounds. He completed 55 laps before crashing, while father Lee won the 100-lap feature.
 
 
What is it with "Boy's and their toys"? In this case...cars. I won't say that all boys have an infatuation for cars, a lot don't, they have obsessions with boats, planes, guns....technology....sometimes....all of these. Today, the day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday. Christmas shopping season has begun in earnest with deep discount sales. I drove out to Lowe's Speedway which is located north east of Charlotte. I took Interstate 77 which cuts through Charlotte and skirts the downtown area and connects to the inner loop Interstate that circles downtown. On the way out to Lowe's I took a detour through downtown to take a quick look around. Out at the Speedway there are about a dozen Racing Team merchandise trailers lined up blowing out this year's merchandise to the fans. I walk up to the race track and there are a few people there watching the cars out on the track. If you purchase over $50 in merchandise you can drive your car around the 1 mile high banked oval track. There were numerous cars lined up. A group of cars would follow a track car for a few laps. Without the pace car it would be a free-for-all and I am sure there would be some damaged vehicles. I found it funny watching the mini vans and SUVs racing around the track. There were a few corvettes and other sports cars that took the drive. You could also hear which vehicles were not stock. Their exhaust system tuned a little louder. I was about to leave when we heard a car lining up. When the car revved it's engine, if you closed your eyes you could picture being at the track just prior to a race. We finally see which vehicle is making the noise. A 1970 purple Duster with a blower, racing gauges on the hood, and open headers. It was a sweet sound hearing him roar around the track. The sound echoing around the high banks and stands. A boy with his toy!
 
I grew up with my toys...actually I haven't outgrown my toys...take a look at my truck. Started off playing with Hot Wheels, moved up to building plastic models, then tearing apart and putting back together real cars. From my '72 Duster, adding some mag wheels, hood pins and the mandatory fuzzy dice. Then my rust bucket Pontiac Astre, my holy car, because you had to pray that it wouldn't disintegrate as you drove(it was that rusty), until I added a lot of bondo and a paint job. Then I moved up to my favourite car...my dad sold me his '78 El Camino Diablo with the large graphic on the hood. Added the mag wheels, extra wide rear tires, chromed and rebuilt engine, high end stereo, dual chromed exhaust. An awseome ride. My brother bought a '68 Lemans and started rebuilding it until his girlfriend bought a '70 Duster that had already been rebuilt with a new paint job, hood scoop and racing engine (then his car sat around a lot, primed, but never painted). We found a few other guys with hot cars and we started our own car club...the Street Knights...designed our club logo and had club jackets. Cruised around on Friday and Saturday nights, had club meetings and bowling nights. Then one by one we all got married and we slowly started selling our "babies". With kids and houses, it didn't make sense having an expensive vehicle collecting dust in the garage. Growing up in Manitoba with its long, snowy winters, your toy stayed parked a lot.
 
I never lost my love of cars. I've always loved Mustangs, especially the late '60s models. On numerous occasions I came very close to buying various models. As much as I loved my cars, family was always the priority. I could never justify spending the money, then have a car sit in the garage 90% of the time, being used occasionally on nice days. Others are more hard core and their toys are a priority. That's how life is. We constantly make choices about what is important to us. Whether it's toys, travel, houses, parties, scrapbooking or collecting dolls. It doesn't matter what income level you are at, choices are made as to where your money goes, though for most of us mostly to necessities...which is also defined differently by each of us. What might be considered necessary by me, might be considered frivolous to someone else.
 
On the way back from the Speedway I drove around downtown Charlotte. There weren't many people there. Being Thanksgiving weekend I'm assuming a lot of people also had Friday off. Charlotte reminded me a lot of Calgary. Same high rise office buildings. Very few old buildings, with the exception of churches. Downtown Charlotte is smaller than Calgary's...maybe the size. Charlotte is in the same situation as Calgary, having grown quite a bit in the past few years. Banking and Medical the main industries. A highly educated, professional workforce. I didn't stop to take any pictures. There was nothing worth taking.
 
I almost forgot....yesterday...Thanksgiving. I went to the Thanksgiving Dinner in John's Place. I met John and Sheila, the campground owners for the past 21 years. They paid for all the food. A few of the campground residents (there are about 50 year-round camp sites) prepared all the food. About 20 people showed up with enough food for 50. It was delicious. I met a couple (I forget their names) who had been staying at the campground the past few months. She's a nurse and takes contract jobs wherever she can. They sold their house on the South Carolina coast a while ago and moved into their 5th wheel. He takes odd jobs wherever they are. Her current contract was expiring in a few days. They were heading to Baltimore for a couple of weeks to visit their daughter, then coming back to grab their trailer and head south to Florida and hopefully find another nursing contract.
 
I came back to the trailer, did some reading and finally continued working on a slide show presentation of Katrine's Curling in Italy. All the other parents and coaches are waiting for copies of the pictures I took of the girls curling and winning University Olympic Gold. One year is coming up and I figured I should get that finished.
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